Critter Corner: Cryptids of Virginia and Maryland: From Chessie to Goatman | Lifestyles

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I love fall, I love October, and I love Halloween. Instead of covering up my usual Halloween safety or the critters often associated with Halloween, this year I’m taking another route: cryptozoology.

Cryptozoology is the study of animals reported but for which no evidence can be found. Some examples are the Loch Ness Monster, the Kraken, the Hellhounds and the Mothman. At different times in history, animals such as the platypus, manatee and gorilla were considered myths.

Cryptozoology has made a comeback with shows like “Monsters and Mysteries in America”, “Mountain Monsters” and “Beast Hunter”. Here are some of the cryptids reported from Virginia and Maryland.

Chessie – Chesapeake Bay: Chessie is a snake-like aquatic animal that swims in the Chesapeake Bay. The first sighting may have taken place in the 1840s in the area now known as Virginia Beach. Further sightings in the bay followed in the 1930s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

There are various ideas of what the Chessie could be, including great sharks or oars. Some have wondered if it could be snakes that escaped from abandoned ships. Others say the increase in sightings in the late 1900s coincided with the opening of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.

Bigfoot – Virginia: Bigfoot (aka Sasquatch) is probably one of the most well-known cryptids. In the fall of 2015, a Bedford County woman called 911 to claim that she had seen one carrying offspring. According to news reports, the baby was described as resembling Chewbacca, and the woman claimed to have seen footprints. Police inspecting the area found nothing.

Snallygaster – Maryland: The snallygaster is said to be a flying reptilian bird-like creature that hunts farm animals and children in the Southern Mountain region. The snallygaster may have its origins in stories told by German immigrants who settled in the area in the 1730s. In the early 1900s sightings were reported in a local newspaper.

Dewayo / Dwayyo – Maryland: Also known as the Maryland Wolfman, this creature is the enemy of the snallygaster. The beast is described as a mixture of a wolf with human movement and position. The Dewayo appeared to gain popularity in the mid-1900s with reports of the beast in local newspapers and a sighting reported in 1966.

Until the 1970s, people reported seeing or hearing the screams of the Dewayo. So if you are near Gambrill State Park or certain areas of Highway 77, be on the lookout.

Goatman – Maryland: The Maryland Goatman would travel the back roads of Prince George County. Legend has it that he was a goatherd gone mad, that he preyed on people and maimed pets. Other stories claim that he was the victim of an experiment at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Descriptions of him are close to that of a satyr: the body of a human but resembling a goat from waist to foot.

Although stories of his presence stretch back years, the legend of Goatman saw a resurgence in the 1970s after the death of a dog was blamed on him.

Thanks to COVID, Halloween will most likely be different this year. If you choose not to make treats with your kids, grab some hot chocolate and snacks, sit down with your kid, and have fun researching cryptozoology. Take a road trip if you can. Explore some of the areas where these creatures are believed to roam. This can be a great way to get your child interested in more than just electronics. It’s also a great way to get out while maintaining social distances.

Karen Peak is the developer of the Safe Kids / Safe Dogs Project and owner / operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County.


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